I’m aware that this blog has a habit of getting a bit number-crunch heavy at times, lots of theory, and not a lot of board game.
As part of an ongoing attempt to stem this tide of text, I try periodically to introduce some more visual content, looking at my efforts with the Paintbrush.
Today I’m going to return to Mansions of Madness- I did a painted low-down of the base game back in the autumn, and today I want to look at some of the expansions.
Suppressed Memories and Recurring Nightmares were 2 boxes that provided the tiles and figures of Mansions of Madness 1st edition for 2nd edition players – they disappointed some 2nd-edition fans with their lack of scenario/card content, but they way that they extend the range of Investigators and Monsters at your disposal made them a must-have for me.
Between the 2 boxes, there were no fewer than 16 new Investigators made available. Some of them were really nice figures to paint, and I was really pleased with some of the details, like the creases on Kate Winthrop’s lab-coat, and the pens in her pocket.
Generally speaking, the male investigators in Mansions of Madness tend to be less interesting to paint – Darrell the Photographer, and Bob the Salesman particularly fade into the background, although figures like Dexter the Magician and Monterey the Archaeologist have a bit more of the unusual going for them.
There are also a few rather more dynamic male investigators appearing in these boxes – Michael the Gangster and Joe the PI both come out all guns blazing – Joe feels a little bit over the top to me, but I like Michael’s scope, and he’s a fun investigator for scenarios that have a heavy focus on monster-bashing.
Relying more on mind than body, the next 2 male investigators are Vincent the Doctor, and Harvey the Professor – a lot more brown in the palette for these men (there’s no way I was going to paint Tweed pattern on something that size). I also liked Vincent’s Saw – definitely the approach to medicine you expect your Arkham Investigator to take.
Of course, no Arkham Investigators set would be complete without everyone’s favourite Arkham LCG Investigator, Duke, who comes to Mansions in the company of his faithful sidekick, Ashcan Pete.
Because Duke is so small, it’s quite difficult to get any meaningful detail onto his miniature (aside from the red scarf around his neck, but being the only dog in the set, he still stands out from the others quite well.
Jenny Barnes is a character who takes quite a bit of flak from various members of our play-group, and you have to admit that her outfit looks better suited to society balls than creepy old houses. However, she’s a character with quite an interesting backstory, and very good utility in most of the different games, so I still wanted to do a good job on this one – the colour-scheme for her dress and hat vary across the different Arkham Files games, but on personal preference I went for the blue rather than the purple end of the spectrum.
Gloria, the author was another fun one to paint- the shades of green weren’t that remarkable, but anyone who carries a typewriter like a handbag has done more than enough to catch my attention.
Sadly, this miniature arrived slightly damaged (leaning forward at quite a funny angle) and, although I’ve been able to correct it a bit with a hair-dryer and pot of cold water, there’s still a noticeable lean.
Amanda and Carolyn, the student and the Psychiatrist respectively, both have fairly blank outfits, but with a lot of utility in Elder Sign and Eldritch Horror, I still wanted the figures to look good – they certainly aren’t the stand-outs of the bunch (Amanda’s glasses are way too dark/thick-framed), but I think they’re passable.
Sister Mary, like Father Matteo from the 2nd Edition core box, appears in clerical robes, and I decided to follow FFG’s illustrations with a brown colour-scheme, rather than black and white, which leaves them looking a bit less similar to one another.
Last, but by no means least comes Mandy, the Researcher – this was a really difficult figure to paint, combining my two pet peeves from this range of figures – glasses and excessively detailed shoes. Overall though, I was quite pleased with the end result, particularly when viewed from a table-top gaming distance: the dark wash bringing out the detail lines in the jacket really well.
That’s about it for today – I want to aim more towards little and often with these pieces, but hopefully I’ll be back soon with some more Monsters
It’s been a fairly dry few weeks here on Fistful of Meeples, as I’ve talked a lot about numbers, lists, statistics, and even storage inserts. Whilst this is the sort of thing that often fills my mind, I’m aware that it may not be the most exciting fare that people have ever read, and I want to keep a balance. For today, let’s take a more colourful look at Mansions of Madness 2nd edition.
Mansions of Madness is a game that’s been floating around for a while, in which a “Gatekeeper” marshals various dark and sinister forces against a band of investigators who are exploring a Mansion or other location. This summer’s surprise release saw the game re-booted for a second edition, giving the role of the Gatekeeper to an app, leaving the players with a fully co-operative and/or solo-able way to play through the Mansion.
I love this game- I picked up a review copy that I wrote about for Games Quest, and it’s spent many hours on our dining table since August. It’s thematic, and the layout tiles are beautiful.
It wasn’t without its detractors though. Replayability and the number of scenarios included is a can of worms that I’ll leave for another time, but people were also quick to find fault with the miniatures.
A monster in Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition is made up of 3 components, a grey plastic miniature, a massive black base, and a cardboard tile that gets (mostly) swallowed by said base. The pegs for fixing the miniatures into the bases were often the wrong size and, unless you spent some time filing or gluing, they could be relied upon to fall apart with depressing regularity.
Whilst 5 minutes with glue and scissors would have been sufficient to make the game playable, I felt inspired by my ongoing efforts to pimp out Zombicide, and taking an idea from Board Game Geek, decided to give these figures the full treatment.
The Cultist is your basic Lovecraftian monster. Seemingly entirely human, he has turned to dark and sinister ways, and needs to be stopped. The base game of Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition comes with a lot of cultists, offering a fair amount of scope for varying the colour scheme without making them look implausibly jovial in hue.
Leading the cultists, is the Priest of Dagon – like most of the monsters in this set, FFG produce a pre-painted version of this character, which provided a useful starting point, but it felt a bit too gaudy to me.
Instead, I opted for a slightly darker tone to meet the overall mood of the game. There’s not really a great deal going on overall with this figure, but I’m generally fairly happy with how it turned out.
The Riot is simply a mob of angry men, and the ordinariness of it all is what I was trying to capture in the painting of these figures. Sometimes the narrative will hint at something more sinister in the blood of these types (or even straight-up tell you that it’s being used to represent an army of zombies). However, for the miniatures, I just wanted something that could pass for a crowd of 1920s men, suddenly roused to anger and violence, terrifying because of their apparent ordinaryness.
Still human-looking to the casual eye, the Deep One Hybrid is born of the sea, and not quite human. I’ve done a few of these, trying to tread the line between the natural and the ridiculous: I think that overall the slightly unnatural flesh tones and the red eyes are more effective, but the more “human” one is still perfectly serviceable.
Whilst the world of Lovecraft is full of ordinary folk who have meddled in things that should not have concerned them, it also contains plenty that it clearly monstrous, and the game reflects that too.
The Ghost was probably the hardest figure to paint, as the ideal effect would be translucence, which obviously cannot be painted on to a piece of solid grey plastic. For both attempts at this, I went for pale, muted colours – everything in shades of grey for the first, and then a whiter palette for the second, which I tinged with light blue, before adding the chains in a heavy, unmistakably corporeal dark metallic shade.
The Child of Dagon is a strange monster. Typically in scenarios, you seem to encounter a normal looking human who is suddenly and dramatically transformed. This is another where FFG’s pre-painted miniature is a very bright colour, almost garish. I wanted something a bit less over-the-top, whilst still retaining the definitely-not-human aspect. I think what I’ve ended up with works well.
The Deep One is a creature of the sea, and the first of the Monsters which doesn’t appear to have been human at any point in time. For this one, I followed the colour-scheme of the pre-painted miniature for sale on the website fairly closely, including the pink tinges around the hands/feet and spine – although, I’ve generally gone for a slightly more muted tone than the official ones. As there were 4 of these, I was able to bring in a bit of variety, I went for a greenish rather than blue base for this one, and a greenish tint for another. Overall, it still seems to work fairly well.
The Hunting Horror was one of the trickiest models to paint, the pattern – lots and lots of little squares – on the skin had a very pronounced cast line on it in the first one, and by the time I’d trimmed with the scalpel, filed, and re-filled gaps, some of the detail was lost. For the first one, I kept with the dark, blueish base colour and some pale panels shown on the FFG website.
For the second though, I decided to push the boat out a bit: I’d used a green primer for this round of monsters, and the pale green I’d used on one of the Deep Ones made for a nice additional layer over this, giving it a hint of brightness without looking too garish.
The blood red for the main body is a bit more of a departure from any of the sources I’d seen, but once it was muted down with the ink wash, I thought it still looked ok.
The final Monster from the Core Box was the Star Spawn. These are monstrous enough in size and shape that they really didn’t feel like they needed too much done to them in terms of outlandish colour. I kept with the fairly plain green spray primer, and touched up missing patches in a similar shade. I then tried to introduce a little bit of fairly weak purple into the tattoo-like patterns, and the protruding veins. I also added white for the eyes.
I’m still not 100% sure how to finish this one off. It feels like it needs a little bit more work- perhaps some tinting on the face tentacles, but as it doesn’t need a base, it’s easier to revisit later on.
Overall I’m fairly happy with these monsters. I think that the clear base instead of the large black plastic one is probably the biggest element in improving the aesthetics, but with clear bases, you definitely can’t paint afterbasing, so getting that done now was key.
It also didn’t really seem fair to hair the monsters in full technicolour whilst the investigators shuffled around in plain grey plastic, so I painted them too. There are colour pictures of the investigators on their character cards, along with various examples on the internet, so I didn’t need to put too much creative thought into these.
The hardest bit about the investigators was the bases. Whereas the monsters come with a peg that works well for attaching them to a base, the investigators are cast as a single piece with their base. I suspect that I could probably remove them from the bases without damaging the legs/feet in most cases, but re-attaching them to a clear base might well prove tricky.
Having decided to leave them on their bases, I then had to decide on colour. I attempted to recreate the cobbled-stones pattern of the outdoor tiles, but wasn’t happy with the result. Given how many different floors there are, I ultimately just went for grey, as the simplest option.
Just as I was reaching the end with painting these, the expansions arrived, complete with more monsters and investigators. I’m not sure how long exactly it will take me to get those painted, but I’ll be sure to post an update once I have.
Typically, when you buy a board game, it comes in a box. If it didn’t, it would be fairly difficult to get it home, you’d probably lose things, etc, etc.
That said, there are boxes and there are boxes. Some games arrive in a box that is the perfect storage solution, whilst others are clearly not fit for purpose. Increasingly, I find myself building custom inserts for boxes, and thought I might offer a few thoughts in game boxes generally.
Vast, Cavernous and Empty
This was always the way games seemed to be done historically – If you think of a game like Yahtzee, it would typically come in a box the size of a couple of massive hardback novels, yet what you got inside was a pad of paper, 5 dice, some pencils, and a cup.
Given that the cup is superfluous, and most people already have pens or pencils at home, this could probably have been compressed substantially.
On the flip side, if you do despair of the massive box and chuck it, you may end up losing some of the components
Moving to move modern games, this is still a phenomenon we see regularly.
A Dominion set, or a new installment in the Legendary series will generally come in a large box, often with a plastic insert that looked like it could have been designed explicitly to fill out a box, and make it look like you were getting more than just a couple of decks of cards.
Of course, one reason to have a big box is if the game is destined for lots of expansions. The instant I opened up Machi Koro for the first time, I could tell that they had expansions planned – the box insert is still blotting out about half of the available space in the box, but once you’ve added an expansion or two, at least the insert itself doesn’t look too empty.
When you do get expansion after expansion though, you need to decide at what point you start splitting or combining the sets. I’ve long-since ditched the box for Machi Koro’s Harbour expansion, which would potentially be an issue if I ever wanted to split them up (for example to sell the expansion and keep the base game).
Beyond a certain point, it just gets silly. It’s actually been quite a few years since I ditched the boxes for my Dominion collection, but if I still had them, I’d be looking at 5 large boxes and 2 small ones by this stage – that’s pretty much an entire shelf on the gaming case.
Instead, I bought a really useful box – this holds all the cards, and 95% of what I need for any game (there are one of two other odds and ends, plus some unused duplicates that I keep in a lone small box.
No Room at the Inn
The other issue with expansions goes the other way: I have a very early copy of the Firefly Boardgame, one which came in a compact box that was absolutely rammed full of stuff- obviously, there is an insert here, but I don’t think I’d be saving much space if I took it out.
The problem is, when I’ve looked at the possibility of getting expansions in the past, most of the smaller ones which caught my eye didn’t come in the sort of size/shape/solidity of box that I’d want to use for long-term storage. If I’d bought the later edition, with the longer box, I could probably have squashed them in, but instead I’ve left my Firefly collection without expansions beyond the original “Breaking Atmo” deck.
Looking for components in all the wrong spaces
Sometimes there are games which come in a box that’s plenty big enough for all the stuff you’ll need to fit in it, but the inset prevents you. This can be bad design on the part of the manufacturers, or it can simply be the result of a different design philosophy.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is the perfect example of this. Each version of the game comes with a very similar looking plastic insert, designed to hold the cards by type, with separate spaces for constructed character decks, and other slots for the various expansion adventures.
The space for the expansion boxes was always a bit annoying: once you actually crack open the later adventures and start playing them, the cards all go in with the others of that type. Putting the cards back in their boxes is something that would only be relevant if you were going back to the beginning of the AP and play through it again, and even then, it isn’t the only option available.
I’ve had 3 Pathfinder APs now, and have taken a slightly different approach to each of them.
Rise of the Runelords
Rise of the Runelords was the first AP, and it had a few issues – for one thing, the factory who printed the cards seemed incapable of getting the colours right, and the company behind the game decided to switch to a new printer- this made for a lot more stability long-term, but in the short-term, it meant a shift mid-cycle to noticeably different card backs. The card-back issue meant that in certain scenarios, you could identify the henchman/villain simply from the card-back, which is the type of information that you are definitely not supposed to have access to.
In the end, I splashed out for this one, and bought a wooden custom box insert. Broken Token seem to be the market leaders in this area, but availability outside of North America is not great, so I got mine from another company (I forget now whether it was Amazon or Ebay). The wooden insert is really solid, and offers a nice amount of flexibility. The only issue is that the rows aren’t wide enough for the baggy-fit penny sleeves that I normally use, and to fit properly, you have to have the more expensive standard-quality sleeves: For Runelords I’d decided to get those sleeves anyway, to hide the differing print-runs, so it wasn’t too bad.
This is definitely one of the nicest-looking storage solutions for a game that I have. It’s also, undoubtedly the most expensive. I don’t begrudge the spending on the sleeves that much, as the cards would have been shredded by now, given how many times we’ve played this game, but it probably wasn’t the most efficient way forward.
Skull & Shackles
For AP2, Skull and Shackles, I made my own insert – I had the whole path in penny sleeves, and wanted to keep the costs down. I also had a growing number of the class decks, which arrive in impractically wide and shallow boxes that I wasn’t keen to keep, to I was able to accommodate a few of these as well.
Obviously this lacks the elegance of the Runelords insert. However, I doubt it cost me any more than a fiver in materials: the base is heavy card (artists’ mountboard iirc) and the walls are foamboard. A few of the dimensions aren’t 100% ideal – I wish I’d allowed more space to mix in class-deck cards, but overall, this feels very functional and efficient.
Wrath of the Righteous
Lastly (so far) was AP3 – Wrath of the Righteous. As I’ve talked about a length elsewhere, we didn’t really get on with this path, and whilst it contains some cool stuff we wouldn’t want to lose, I certainly wasn’t in any mood to go shelling out loads of cash on the box. Fortunately, I had these trays which I’d originally used for Runelords, they are all foamboard, and were done without less of the precise measuring than employed for the later sets – this means that some compartments are a bit too big, and others are quite snug, but it generally works a fairly multi-purpose tray.
Aside from the Pathfinder inserts, I’ve made foamboard trays for a few other games – For Lord of the Rings LCG, these have typically been open boxes that are the sole storage for that bit of the game.
The most recent, and perhaps the most ambitious was for Mansions of Madness. I’d already done some customisation on the figures, painting them up, and putting them onto clear bases (an idea I nicked from a guy on BoardGameGeek, but I now needed somewhere to put them – stacking all the loose components and the miniatures on top of the tiles was tricky, and with expansions in the works, it was clearly all going to go wrong.
I made a foamboard tray for the tiles, with a shelf to go on top and hold the miniatures. The end section was left for the cards and tokens, but I had an added problem that the Star Spawn figures are so tall that they wouldn’t fit inside the box if I made their shelf as high as it would need to be to hold all the tiles – I therefore ended up with a split-level insert.
Typically I make these inserts fairly plain and functional, but I still had the original box insert from FFG – a really nice piece of art, printed onto some strangely-folded cardboard that could have been designed for the sole purpose of making it harder to put things in the box. I cut a few bits to size, and stuck them to some slightly more solid card to cancel out the folds and flaps and (after a few mis-judged attempts, and a fair bit of trimming, it was done).
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with this- it certainly makes it a lot easier to store in the short-term. Long-term, a lot of the aesthetics will be lost, when I have to add in the extra-large tiles, but I decided that I’d rather have them lying on top than sacrifice the support underneath the large shelf – better have it look a bit plain than have it cave-in.
I don’t think that there is a perfect solution to the question of box sizes – make it too small and there’s no room in the box for expansions, make it too big and there’s no room on the shelf (or if you don’t bother with expansions). Build it to hold sleeved cards, and unsleeved ones will rattle around and fall out, make it for unsleeved, and sleeved cards won’t fit.
Overall, I think that between foamcore and Really Useful Boxes, there’s generally a solution to be had, typically at a fairly sensible price. Obviously I’d love to have enough money to put all my games in Broken Token style boxes, but I need to be realistic.
I’m just going to leave you all with a picture of the Alhambra Big Box, undoubtedly the best storage solution I’ve found that comes with the game itself. Of course, even that has its problems, as I’ll be talking about soon…
I’m aware that things have been a bit dry and cerebral here for the last little while: lots of numbers and musings, without too much shiny. I wanted to redress the balance a bit today, and I couldn’t think of a better game to focus on in doing that than Zombicide, a big, bold dice-chucking miniatures game.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I picked up Zombicide: Black Plague in March, as a review copy (check out the review here on the Games Quest blog). Cool Mini Or Not were a company I hadn’t really been familiar with before, but the fast, fun gameplay of Zombicide had me hooked, and as time passed, I was inspired to dust off my paints and paintbrushes (largely unused since I gave up Table-top Wargaming a couple of years ago) and paint some of the figures.
In the game, you control a band of survivors, fighting of swarms of Zombies. The core game gives you 6 Survivors to start with:
There was also a bix-box expansion call Wulfsburg (can you guess what type of enemies got added there?) which added another 4 Survivors, to give you some fresh options:
Around the same time, I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of B-Sieged (thanks again Games Quest – check out the review here), and the Ebay was able to supply me with promo cards to play the 6 B-Sieged Heroes as Zombicide Survivors as well.
Having painted the Survivors, it seemed only fair to start adding some colour to the Zombies themselves, starting with the Necromancer (puny in and of himself, but summons extra zombies) and the Abomination (big nasty thing, very hard to kill with only Core Box survivors and equipment)
The Zombies themselves come in 3 basic types, Walkers (vanilla), Runners (move twice instead of once) and Fatties (need 2 damage to kill instead of 1).
As these are basically just the peasantry of the Dark Ages, I tried to stick with a fairly plain colour pallet – lots of browns and beiges. I allowed myself a bit more colour on the fatties, as getting to that size in this (admittedly fictionalised) time period, probably suggest that they were slightly better off.
I’ve already mentioned the Wulfsburg expansion, and it should come as no great surprise to know that this introduces Wolf zombies. I haven’t had chance to paint up the normal “Wolfz” yet, but did at least get to their leader, the Wolfbomination
One of the great things about Zombicide, is the way you can modify it so easily – there are bucket-loads of expansions out there, and they are all basically modular, meaning you can mix and match which ones you include. My next acquisition was the “NPC (Notorious Plagued Characters)” box – n gameplay terms, they are basically just special zombies which you can collect to trade in for additional rewards. Gameplay aside, it was a chance to get a bit more creative with the colour-schemes, as these are clearly drawn from other places besides the general peasant mass.
Something you can be entirely oblivious to when playing a game with unpainted miniatures, but which becomes rapidly evident when you start painting, is the extent of the casting flaws: lines around where the two halves of the mould join are pretty-much inevitable, and bigger gaps or mis-alignments can be found on a lot of the figures.
Trimming this away with a scalpel is pretty much inescapable, and for some figures, further filing and filling is needed too: Vallejo plastic putty is probably the best for this, although I’ll admit to having cut a few corners, and just used standard DIY filler, applied with a small metal tool, or a cocktail stick.
Paint-wise, I’ve used mostly Vallejo Colours, with a few Citadel or Humbrol odds and ends I had lying around. I do the main blocks of colour, then cover the thing over with a wash of Windsor and Newton Ink, which mutes the colours, and really brings out the contrast in the figure (or makes it obvious if you’ve missed a bit when trimming away the extra flashing). Then I add highlights over the top: typically a paler version of the colour itself on exposed areas. Finally, I spray with Army Painter anti-shine matt varnish, just to stop things from looking too garish.
It’s a lesson that I’ve learned the hard way, and very reluctantly over the years, that no matter how good a job you do on painting a figure, the base has at least as much impact on how it looks when out on the board, and in play.
The basing approach I’ve used for Black Plague is nicked more-or-less directly from the YouTube videos of the very talented Sorastro (then modified for me own forgetfulness/lack of ability) – a neutral grey colour to represent the mortar/dirt, and generally create the outline, then a selection of pale shades for the flagstones themselves, followed by a wash or two to dirty things up and bring down the contrast. Overall, it takes a fair amount of time – almost as much as the mini itself in some cases, but it’s definitely worth it for the final effect.
It’s been good fun getting back into painting again. As you can see, I’m far from being a professional-standard painter, but so long as you prep them properly, these miniatures allow you to get a nice visual effect without too much competence being required.
As a final sneak preview, I picked up these rather terrifying folk this week: the Zombie bosses:
I’ve never actually painted a miniature as big as the Abominatroll or Abominatour before, so these will be an interesting challenge, and I’ll post some results in a few weeks, along with a review of that box generally. In the meantime, I’m going to need someone able to deal with all these extra Abominations. Courtesy of Ebay, I think I might have the answer with this character, who definitely isn’t Xena: Warrior Princess (honest)